Thursday, February 26, 2009

NAACP Participates in Nationwide 'Day of Action' at Fox Affiliates; pushes diversity in Newsrooms

NAACP Branches across the nation participated in a ‘Day of Action’ today protesting racially insensitive coverage at FOX News and the NY Post, demanding greater diversity at those outlets and nationwide.

The action was initiated by a Feb. 18 New York Post cartoon that has sparked outrage around the country. Among 152 international media subsidiaries, News Corporation owns many newspapers including the New York Post and Wall Street Journal, cable TV networks and local FOX stations.

“We believe that these stations, which are often good corporate citizens in our community, should lend their voice to ours and call for the parent corporation they are affiliated with to change its pattern of racially insensitive and incendiary coverage,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.

Both Fox News and the New York Post have come under criticism by a variety of media watchdog groups for racially insensitive and biased reporting. The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) gave Fox News their ‘Thumbs Down’ Award last year for its racially insensitive commentary and reporting along with a lack of diverse political correspondents during the election.

Fox News was widely condemned for calling Michelle Obama “Obama’s baby mama” and referring to then-candidate Barack Obama’s fist bump with his wife a “terrorist fist jab.” In addition, for the past 8 years, The New York Post is the only major newspaper that has refused to participate in the American Society of Newspaper Editors annual survey that tracks diversity at daily newspapers in the U.S.

NAACP leaders again today demanded firing of the cartoon’s creator, Sean Delonas, and the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Col Allen.

“It outraged our members,” said Roger Vann, NAACP Vice President of Membership and Field Operations. “It compared African Americans to primates and it sullied police officers at a time when many communities are torn by suspicious police killings of young African American men.”

NAACP members, including Jealous, joined the National Action Network and hundreds of other activists last week to protest outside News Corporation’s headquarters in New York. NAACP leaders also passed an emergency resolution denouncing the artwork and calling for action against responsible parties during its quarterly national board and annual meeting last weekend.

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives’ President Joseph McMillan also condemned the cartoon as “outrageous, despicable, insensitive and easily interpreted as racist.”

Today, NAACP branches from coast-to-coast including in Boston, Birmingham, Hartford, Louisville, Atlanta, San Francisco, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, Tulsa, Raleigh, NC, Austin, Corpus Christi and Dallas, TX, Memphis and elsewhere, approached News Corporation entities, namely FOX television affiliates, in their communities to have station general managers ensure that such insulting behavior does not take place at the local level.

The cartoon, which showed police shooting an ape with a caption reading, “I guess they’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” was juxtaposed against a photo of President Obama signing the stimulus package.

News Corporation CEO K. Rupert Murdoch’s published apology, where he states the paper would endeavor to be more sensitive to the community, is welcomed as a first step but is inadequate because it offers no concrete measures to achieve that goal.

The NAACP has been at the forefront of the battle against negative stereotypes of African Americans starting with protest of D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” in 1915. Additionally, the NAACP’s Hollywood bureau was created to increase diversity in television and was established to monitor and regulate the entertainment industry.

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